Treaty Rights, Recognition, and Territory

In March of 1958, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) made two significant findings regarding the Samish Tribe in their efforts to pursue land claims against the federal government for land that was taken by the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855. The first, regarding the treaty status of the Samish, the ICC held that, “The Samish held Samish Island, Guemes Island, eastern Lopez Island, Cypress Island, maiden2and Fidalgo Island.” The second finding made by the ICC held that, “The treaty cession includes the whole of the areas alleged by petitioner to have been used and occupied by the Samish Indians in aboriginal times.”

In spite of these and other positive findings regarding the legal and political history of the Samish Indian Nation and in spite of the fact the tribe was on the list of federally recognized tribes that was published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1966, Samish’s status as a federally recognized Indian tribe was lost when through a clerical error in 1969 we were simply left off the list when the Bureau of Indian Affairs republished it. This is assumed to have been an oversight very similar to the one that again happened to the Samish in the late 1960’s when a BIA clerk left them off the list of Federally Recognized Tribes. It took over 26 year’s administrative and federal court proceedings to finally regain recognition for the Samish Indian Nation in April of 1996. Other legal issues regarding the tribe’s status are still seeking clarification in the federal courts.